May 1, 2019

EDITORIAL: Good Riddance to the Event Security Fee

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Cornell controversies come as fast as they go, usually earning barely a peep from the administration. So consider us astonished to hear the University has, at last, opted to effectively ditch the burdensome event security fee. The move is a win for free expression on campus and a remarkable bout of responsiveness from leadership that too often shrugs off community input.

After first hinting at the changes in February, Cornell will now begin covering security costs for most events up to $8,000. In a campus-wide email, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi announced the changes, which also include transitioning away from OrgSync, Cornell’s clunky student organization management system.

As we laid out in February, the event security fee has long acted as a curb on speech. It hands protesters a powerful tool to raise the cost of hosting events they deem unacceptable. The new rules will render that tool moot. Providing for up to $8,000 in security expenses — more than the $5,000 paid to host Rick Santorum, perhaps the rowdiest speaking event in recent memory — should encompass just about all controversial speakers.

Two notes of caution for the administration. First, the $8,000 figure is likely not a permanent fix. Security costs are bound to rise over time. As they do, the University should continue to bump up event security funding in tandem — such that the upper threshold is consistently above the cost of securing the most controversial events.

Second, the rollout of OrgSync’s replacement must be handled smoothly. In 2015, a sizable number of student organizations were denied Student Activities Funding Commission funding thanks to OrgSync’s deficiencies, forcing the organizations to either charge members or slash activities. The new system is meant to preclude such dilemmas, but amid the transition from OrgSync, glitches are to be expected. The University should work closely with SAFC and club leaders to help as many student organizations as possible get their due funding.

These caveats aside, the end of the event security fee is a victory for free expression at Cornell. Credit goes to the administration for incorporating input from the campus community, and to the untiring advocates that lobbied against the security fee. It’s not too often we get to offer that sort of commendation. On this issue, it is well deserved.

The above editorial reflects the opinions of The Cornell Daily Sun. Editorials are penned collaboratively between the Editor-in-Chief, Associate Editor and Opinion Editor, in consultation with additional Sun editors and staffers. The Sun’s editorials are independent of its news coverage and op-eds.